Can you make your own english muffins? Why yes, you can!
Of course, why would you want to? It’s so easy to buy them, so why go through the effort?
Maybe because they, like so many other baked goods, taste fresher, more flavorful, dare I say-ethereal- when made at home. It also gives you a sense of “whoo-hoo!” to be able to make them from scratch. So while I have not tried my hand at making bagels, (still the fear factor there), I have conquered the English muffin! And it’s not so hard. This recipe is just the epitome of “slow food”.
Why “English” muffins? After all, they are not really muffins as we know them.
It would seem that the English brought over crumpets, which are very similar and are cooked in a skillet. So I guess the early colonists took to making these breads in a skillet, thought they cooked up similar to crumpets but said, “Prithee, these art not crumpets! Theye ayre muffins, English style.” Or something like that.
What I like about this recipe is not only did I get to use sourdough, which I do not use enough, but I did not need muffin rings. This bread is fried in a skillet and usually the batter is so loose as to need rings to pour them into. You flip them, rings and all and fry on the other side. You can buy rings, or clean a bunch of tuna cans to use as such.
Here are links to some english muffin recipes you might want to try that do not take 3 days.
Here is a recipe for baked English muffins from the King Arthur Flour website and…
here is the one I would try next…from the KA website “Flourish”. What can I say? I trust these people.
But the dough in this Tartine recipe was solid enough to support itself without rings and I like recipes that look challenging. The following is the process of making the muffins, not the actual recipe which you can find in their wonderful book.
I went to my baking book “Tartine Breads”. In it was a recipe for English muffins using their bagette dough of sourdough, flour, water, salt and a little yeast in the “poolish”. In a nutshell, the night before, you feed your sourdough and make a poolish of water, flour and yeast. These then sit out over night.
The next morning, you mix up the starter, the poolish, more flour, more water and some salt. It only gets mixed until cohesive. Its not really kneaded as we know it.
Time to let it go through a ‘bulk fermentation’. You do not knead the dough, but give it ‘turns’ every half hour or so for the first couple of hours, letting it rise 3-4 hours. Turns are when you reach into the dough bowl, with damp hands, pick the dough up and let it kind of slide out of your hands, flipping it over on itself. Then you turn the bowl a quarter turn and do it again. You do this every half hour for the first 2 hours and the dough becomes satiny and cohesive, similar to results with kneading, but used with doughs that are ridiculously too wet to knead.
Once it has puffed up (does not need to double-3-4 hours) it is time to shape it.
The dough id divided in 2. You need to prepare 2 baking sheets.
The scary part was that the recipe called for you to put the dough onto a floured towel. Now that just sends shivers up my spine. Put this wet dough onto a floured towel? What if it never came off? But if I use something else, perhaps it wont work right?? What to do?? When in doubt, take a deep breath and just follow the directions.
Lay a lint free tea towel in the pan. Heavily flour this with a blend of 50% all purpose flour and 50% rice flour. Rice flour does not absorb moisture as readily and keeps dough from sticking. I use it a lot more for flouring pans or baskets since learning this. Pat out the first dough half into the pan, slowly patting and stretching it out. Then cover it with more of the flour blend and yet another towel.
Basically, you start by feeding your sourdough. I keep mine in the fridge between uses so I feed it twice to wake it up and then start on my recipe. Of course, I only use tablespoons at a time when I feed the dough, so as not to waste all that flour.
Above is a picture of the batter, getting ready for its first rising with “turns”, otherwise known as “stretch and folds”. Below are pictures of the process. (Ignore the sourdough waffles.)
Lift and stretch, fold and turn, lift and stretch…
After that it is time to pat it out onto a baking sheet. It will sit, covered in flour, towel and plastic wrap, in the fridge all night.
So you have made a dough sandwich of sorts, out of towels. I covered the whole thing with a cut open plastic loaf type bag before setting it in the fridge for the night. Luckily I had an outside spare refrigerator to use.
Then I prepared the second half.
It took me a while to get going the next morning. I was worried because I had taken them out of the fridge way before it was time to fry them. (I was trying to hold out until my friend Julie turned up) But no worries, they did not deflate when I cut them, the puffed beautifully in the skillet and the clarified butter helped turn them a lovely golden color.
I used the largest round cutter I had and started cutting out the muffins. I cut them as close together as I could, not twisting the cutter around and dipping the cutter in flour as needed. I also melted some butter, gently in the microwave, so the milk bits sank and I could drizzle out the clarified parts of the butter to fry the muffins in.
I was a bit worried about them coming out rounded on top. But when you flip them over, after they are golden on the one side, they flatten themselves out. It really was magical.
After giving so many away, my guys trying them and Julie and I trying a few, I had a few left to freeze. But even those eventually were given to friends. It was a novelty after all. But just seeing all these photos makes me want to make them again. Or have you make them so I can just eat them. If you look close at the picture you can see the forking holes in the middles. I used a Pampered Chef forky thing that holds your food while you cut it. It worked perfectly! It is now my official English Muffins Forker!
I was not planning to share the actual recipe on this blog post, but to give the gist of the process. I love that there is no sugar, no oils, no milk or eggs in the recipe and yet it is the most delicious of breads one could hope to eat. Especially toasted with pools of melted butter filling the holes.
Oh, and I just discovered the site “Wild Yeast” who has a YeastSpotting page full of pictures of other peoples breads and so on. Lets see if this works.